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Atlanta picked as frontrunner in Amazon rodeo, but also called ‘second-tier’ candidate

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Barrage of HQ2 prophecies continues, and Atlanta keeps climbing toward top of merit-based lists

A photo of Midtown Atlanta from the air.
Midtown Atlanta with downtown beyond, where an Amazon-anchored mini-city could potentially thicken the skyline.
Midtown Alliance

Two new studies by separate analytics companies really like Atlanta’s chances of lassoing Amazon’s $5 billion second headquarters.

But other observers aren’t so sure.

In a Saturday report, Business Insider notes that Atlanta has landed the top spot in a ranking of shortlisted potential HQ2 locations by GBH Insights, which weighted picks “according to what it seems Amazon truly values in a potential second headquarters, as inferred from trends apparent in the other 19 cities that were picked.”

Also reporting on the GBH analysis, CNBC quoted a memo from a GBH executive who slotted the likely frontrunners as follows: 1. Atlanta, 2. Raleigh, 3. Washington, D.C., 4. Boston, and 5. Austin. The five primary criteria driving Amazon’s decision, per GBH, include:

1. “East Coast presence.”

2. “Thriving engineering/surrounding university infrastructure and student pipeline.”

3. “Transportation hub with major growth potential.”

4. “Strong technology and pharma industry presence.”

5. “Business friendly, political incentives, and attractive tax/economic long term benefits.”

But GBH’s findings aren’t alone in slotting Atlanta as most likely to bag the e-commerce giant’s outpost.

Sperling BestPlaces, a demographic and place data firm, said back in November that Atlanta stands the best chances of landing HQ2, all things considered. And Sperling is now sticking to that claim in an analysis of Bezos and Company’s top 20 picks, slotting Atlanta ahead of all three Washington, D.C.-area possibilities and then Boston, respectively.

That prediction could hold weight, as TechCrunch points out, because Sperling accurately picked 15 of the 20 finalists months ago.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has labeled Atlanta a “second-tier” choice in the Amazon rodeo, beside Boston and Miami. More likely HQ2 destinations, per the newspaper, would be the Washington, D.C., area and Dallas.

Speaking of, a Dallas-Fort Worth news station is reporting, per Dallas’s mayor, that Amazon officials have insisted that officials with each of 20 finalist cities keep discussions and dealings secret from now on. Mayor Mike Rawlings likened the process to a poker game intended to ignite bidding wars.

Amazon stated earlier this month it intends to select a city for HQ2 in 2018. So the speculation should mercifully have an expiration date.